A short story about conquering a fear and learning to swim viewed through the eyes of a nine year old -
Splash!!! -- The chlorine scented water sprayed on Nan. She shivered with cold and fear as she stood in line. The spectator’s applause echoed throughout the room. Each person swam across the length of the pool in an energetic display of confidence and graceful strokes. Nan watched as the line of wet bathing suit clad fourth graders meandered around the large ocean size swimming pool.
Nan was scared to go into the water. She thought back of how she ended up in this predicament -
Neither of her parents could swim. They were both scared of the water. When Mother was a child she went to the neighborhood quarry with the other children to play in the water. One day she bravely tried to go under water, not knowing she was in a deep section. A strong current pulled her down deep. Her bathing suit got hung up on some old digging equipment that was left to disintegrate at the bottom of the quarry. She struggled desperately to get loose. Her short life passed before her, finally rising to the top, she swore never to go into water again.
Dad on the other hand, being a man, tried to made light of his fear. He would not go to his swim lessons as a child because, for now reason he could think of, he was very frightened of the water. His parents never knew he was not going to the lessons. He was scared to tell his father he was scared to go. So to hide the fact from his parents, before heading home he would use the hose in the neighbor’s backyard to get his swim trunks and towel wet. Later in life the strange thing was that he was in the Coast Guard, on a ship, and didn’t know how to swim. At enlistment when asked if he took his swim test he answered ‘yes.’ He knew if he told the truth he would have to take the test and that was something he was too frightened to do.
When Nan’s parents saw that the local YMCA was offering five free swim lessons to grade school students, and because of their inability to tame the waters, it was decided Nan was to take the swim lessons. Most certainly you could learn enough in five lessons to save yourself from drowning they thought. Thus she would be able to save herself in the event she was thrown into the briny depths.
Nan was also scared of the water. Up to this point in life the only water, besides the bathtub water, she was ever in was the backyard wading pools. There she was brave with water only ankle deep. She also didn’t want to go alone to the lessons. She was very shy and didn’t have many friends, but even if she did most children she knew her age already knew how to swim.
The first day Mother took her downtown on the city bus. Mother didn’t drive so public transportation was their means of transportation when Dad was at work. Getting off the bus they walked down the sidewalk along the busy downtown street. It was a beautiful clear June day. The sky was robin’s egg blue. There was a slight breeze that gave the promise of summer. Most nine year olds would feel free as a fledgling just out of the nest with summer vacation at hand. Not Nan.
As they got closer to the YMCA she had a lump in the pit of her stomach, she might as well have been walking to the guillotine. When they finally reached their destination Mother opened the door for Nan to go in. Nan hesitated a moment, the double doors looked like the mouth of a giant whale that would swallow her as she moved towards it. The overpowering scent of chorine hit them as they walked in the building, making their eyes burn. They approached the clerk at the desk, to ask directions to the locker room. The clerk, a young high school girl working for the summer, pointed down the hall and returned her concentration to the magazine she was reading. Nan thought the girl didn’t want to be here any more the she did, at least the she was getting paid and staying dry.
Nan followed mother down the long hall as she dragged her red, white and blue striped bag behind her. They reached the door with the big black letters painted on it that read, WOMEN’S LOCKER ROOM – SWIMMERS ONLY !!
A fierce looking large woman with gray rooted mousy brown hair stood at the door. Nan thought she looked like the warden of a prison. She wore a black bathing suit. A silver whistle hung around her neck on a red and white lanyard. She was holding a clipboard with a list of names written down the paper.
“Swimmers name,” the woman shouted in a loud rough voice.
“Nan Franklin,” answered mother.
“Into this room Nan. Parents not allowed in here. Lessons will be over in an hour. Pick her up then,” The Warden said. She pushed Nan through the door and yelled for the name of the next swimmer.
Shaking, Nan looked back and saw Mother just standing at the door with a surprised look on her face. Another smaller woman with a friendly face directed Nan to the next room. The room was large with concrete block walls painted a dirty off white color. There were long benches down the middle of each row with cream-colored lockers on each side. There was a group of nine small lockers stacked on top of each other in three’s with a long locker next to each group.
Nan stood staring at the wall of lockers in front of her as girls all around were chattering to each other. The Warden walked around the corner and blew her whistle in a long loud ear-piercing shriek. The chatter stopped instantly as the girls all turned to look at her.
“The long locker is where you will put your street clothes. Strip naked, do not put on your suit. Go back around the corner to your left into the shower room. Every girl must shower and wash off their suit before putting it on. Don’t forget to put on your bathing cap. All hair must be tucked inside the cap, we don’t want hair clogging up the pool filter.” The Warden’s orders echoed off the concrete walls as the girls slowly started to get undressed.
Nan opened her bag and took out her swimsuit, towel, and cap and laid them on the bench. She hesitated for a moment before she started to unbutton her blouse. Getting undressed in a room full of other girls never crossed her mind. She just assumed she would be getting dressed in a private area. This embarrassed her since she never undressed in front of strangers.
Once she took her clothes off she stuffed them quickly in her bag and shoved them in the long locker and closed the door with a loud bang. Nan picked up her suit, towel, and cap. Holding them close to her naked body she slowly walked toward the shower room.
Outside the door to the shower was the friendly face woman. Friendly Face directed each girl to a wall with hooks on it. This is where they were to hang their towels while they were in the pool. Nan quickly hung her towel on the first hook she saw. Now with less to cover her body she clung tightly to her suit and walked into the room with the showers.
It was a long narrow room with a row of showerheads on both sides. The showerheads were placed high on the wall in order to accommodate adults who also used the pool. The water beat down like little nails penetrating her skin. She tried to look around but between the steam in the room from the hot water and the water pelting her from up high she could not see.
The Warden came to the door, her booming voice yelling for everyone to grab the soap and lather up and bathe themselves, and their suit, and rinse off well. Of course there was to be no soapsuds in the pool along with hair to clog the filter.
After all the girls finished rinsing the soap off, they were led into the next room to dress into their wet suits. Trying to put a wet bathing suit on a wet body is not an easy task for anyone, let alone children. Nan put her legs into the wet suit and slowly started to pull it up over her long thin wet legs. The wet cloth was going nowhere, just sticking to her body. Nan pulled and did a little jump hopeful she could jump through the suit to get it pulled up. All the girls in the room seemed to be doing this same little dance as they tried to get dressed. Next Nan tried stuffing her wet hair into the white rubber cap. Her wet hair pulled at the scalp and hurt as she tried to get it under the cap.
Nan was small for her age, but had very long legs and arms. Her long stick legs protruded from her second-hand stretchy pink bathing suit. She thought she looked like a flamingo. Mother always said her legs looked like they would break in half with each step she took. She was very shy and didn’t like to draw attention to herself. The bathing suit made her very self-conscious. Her short wavy dark brown hair was tucked into the tight white bathing cap, except for a few tight curls surrounding her dark brown eyes. The top of her bathing cap was embossed with smiling clown faces that seemed to be laughing hysterically at her embarrassing situation. Even though she was only nine she felt this cap was too childish an item to be wearing in public. She observed the other girls wearing colorful caps with little petal shapes covering their heads like beautiful flowers. With her white-capped head sitting on top of her long thin neck she felt like a cotton swab.
The girls were then led in a single file to the room with the pool, pulling at their wet suits as they hike up their bodies with each step they took.
Again the strong smell of chlorine hitting her face, only so strong now it almost choked Nan. Once she caught her breath Nan looked in awe at the huge room. The pool seemed to be miles long and almost as wide; it was as large as a football field. The sun shown through the clerestory windows and danced down to the water like a brilliant string of diamonds and illuminated the water like clear glass. The concrete block walls were painted shades of blue in a design that looked like waves.
There were diving boards at the far end of the pool, one very close to the surface of the water and the second had a ladder that reached half way to heaven. Against one wall there were rows of bleachers with a windowed press box in the middle.
Nan’s jaw dropped as she took in this incredible view. To her the only swimming pools she knew of were the little blow up round rubber wading pools that the neighborhood mothers filled up with the garden hose in the back yard.
A door slammed, the boys were coming to the pool from the men’s locker room on the other side of the pool. They looked as wet, shivering, and scared as the girls did.
A group of six teenaged boys and girls stood near the middle of the pool. These must be the swim teachers Nan thought. They seemed to be too busy with teenaged flirting to notice the group of wet youngsters standing wide-eyed waiting to absorb the skills of swimming.
The Warden blew her shrill whistle again. The instructors, and the wet
Goose-skinned students all stood at attention as the Warden paced up and down the side of the pool. She looked at each person with an intense stare as she walked past.
“Boys, girls, everyone in one long line and count off to six and we will form lesson groups,” the Warden order them.
One, two, three four….. Nan listened as the group of wet youngster shouted out numbers. “Five,” Nan said in a low shy voice.
The Warden told the instructors to line up and had them also shout out a number from one to six.
“Line up behind the instructor that has your number.”
Nan looked at the line of hormone oozing teenagers for the person who was number five. She was hoping the girl she saw when she first came in, the short rather plump pimpled faced girl with the friendly smile was number five. No, she was number three. The tall girl with the piercing blue eyes and the figure that looked like an old time sexy movie star was number five. She wore a black tank suit with a lifesaver badge at the leg and a tight white cap with long blonde strands of hair hanging out the sides.
The students slowly walked over to their instructors and stood quietly in line. There were four students in each group. Nan looked at the three people in her group. There were two girls and a boy. One of the girls was a timid African American girl who looked at the water with more fear than Nan ever felt in her own soul. She was small like Nan but even thinner with her big dark brown eyes filled with tears. The other girl was taller and heavier than Nan with a beautiful flowered swimsuit with a little skirt. Her swim cap was a pretty bright pink that made her green eyes look like the leaves on the stem of the rose. This girl seemed to have more confidence than Nan had ever felt.
The boy was tall for his age and looked much older than nine, which was the age of this group. He had blond hair that was cut in a buzz and it made him look bald. He had brilliant green eyes that paired up with the rose girl. Nan didn’t know if they were brother and sister, but they certainly were a matched set.
All the groups followed their instructors to a position at the side of the pool. Once the instructors entered the water their authority over the group of nine year olds grew, and unfortunately some heads grew larger than they should have. The Warden left the room so the instructors were in total control.
“Ok you kids, jump in the water,” ordered the Sexy Movie Star to Nan’s group. Nan’s group entered the water, two scared little bodies along with two confident souls.
Nan and Timid Girl lowered themselves into the water very slowly from a sitting position at the side. First they put their toes in, and then lowered their legs as if the water were an acid that would eat away their skin. Nan felt the floor of the pool and let go of the side. The water was half way up her chest and she felt as if the pressure of the water would crush every organ in her body.
The confident Matched Set both jumped in with a terrific splash and stood laughing together in the waist high water with both pairs of eyes glimmered like stars. Sexy Movie Star turned her back on Nan and Timid Girl, and then turning to Matched Set with a big smile. Nan felt they were saying we are the cool ones - let's forget the scared babies.
“Ok kids who can go underwater?” Sexy Movie Star asked the group while only looking at the Matched Set. “Everyone pinch their noses and go under the water to the count of ten.” The Matched Set eagerly pinched their noses and together dropped under the water with a splash.
Nan reluctantly grabbed hold of her nose, closed her eyes, took a very deep breath and slowly lowered her head under the water. She could feel the wall of water covering over her face. Once the water covered her ears she could hear the muffled underwater sounds in the pool. It seemed like whales were calling each other and ship anchors were clanging against the bottom. She quickly started to count to ten then pushed her head back up.
She lived! She held her breath in the water and lived! Maybe swimming wouldn’t be so horrible after all Nan thought.
The rest of the swim time was more covering their faces with water and holding on to the side of the pool - extending their legs and kicking.
Finally the Warden blew her loud whistle to indicate the end of the hour. All the students marched back to the locker rooms in a single file.
Back in the shower room they were told to strip and rinse the pool water of their suits and bodies. The water coming from the showers didn’t feel any better after swimming. Out of the shower room everyone grabbed their towels off the hooks outside the room. Timid girl stood crying looking at the wall; her towel was missing. Friendly Face came to comfort her and brought her a white scratchy pool towel and helped her to the lockers. Nan felt sorry for her.
Nan grabbed her towel and covered herself and quickly walked to the locker. Once she was dressed she followed the other girls down the hall to the lobby of the swim center. Mother was sitting on a big couch reading a magazine.
“Well how was the lesson?” she asked.
“It was fine, I guess. Not as bad as I thought it would be.”
“Good,” Mother answered looking at her watch. “We have to hurry now to catch the bus.”
That night Nan went to bed worrying about the next swim lesson. “Four more lessons. I just have to survive four more times,” shutting her eyes tight as she tried to fall asleep.
A knock on her bedroom door pulled Nan from a deep sleep.
“Nan get up you can’t sleep all day. You have to catch the early bus to get to your swim lesson,” Mother said as she walked in the room.
“I hope you hung your suit up to dry yesterday, you don’t want to put on a wet suit,” Mother said as she opened the blinds and let the morning sun stream into her room.
Nan laughed to herself. Little did Mother know it was mandatory to put on a wet suit.
She followed the scent of toast to the kitchen where Mother had her breakfast on the table. “You have to eat light if you’re swimming. You don’t want to get sick in the pool,” Mother said as she poured a glass of milk.
“I could only take you to the first lesson. You will have to go by yourself from now on, I don’t have anyone to watch the baby.” Mother said. “Anyway you’re old enough now to go downtown by yourself. The bus will stop at the corner at 8:30. Get the money for your fare out of the can on the desk.”
Another item of worry for Nan, she had never taken the bus by herself. She had no idea which bus to take and how to tell the driver where she wanted to get off. Now the question was, what was more terrifying, the bus or the swimming?
When she was dressed Nan went over to the coffee can covered with flowered contact paper. This is where Dad would empty his pockets of change every night when he came home from work. Nan had no idea what the cost of the bus ride was. She looked for Mother to ask her how much to take, but she was feeding the baby and Nan didn’t want to bother her.
Nan plunged her hand into the can and came up with a handful of coins. That should be enough for two rides. Nan headed out the door to wait for the bus with pockets weighted down with the coins.
Another beautiful clear day, but of course all Nan saw was gloom as she waited for the second day of her pending execution.
The big green and white monster rolled up to the corner and opened its big door. Nan looked at the mile high steps and the huge driver sitting upon the seat. He looked down at her with sharp slits for eyes that went through her like a knife. His body was round and tumbled over the side of the big leather seat. A mustache, like a broom, hung over a mouth that held teeth as big as boulders. His extra large hands, resting on the steering wheel looked as if they could block out the sun if he held them up. He looked like an ogre in the fairy tales, the kind that ate little children.
Nan climbed the steps and stopped in front of the big box that took the money. “How much is the fare?” she asked quietly as every inch of her body shook.
“Seventy-five cents,” the Ogre shouted back.
Nan plunged her hand into her pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. Counting as she dropped them one by one into the fare box, “Five, ten, fifteen…” the nickels fell to the convey belt and rode their way to the bottom of the box making a clink as they hit their silvery resting place at the bottom.
Nan’s face turned red and sweat started to bead up on her forehead as the Ogre started to breathe hard and fast with annoyance. How unfortunate the coins she grabbed were all nickels and pennies.
“..Seventy-three, seventy-four, seventy- five,” she finished paying her fare with ten nickels and twenty-five pennies.
The Ogre took one more deep hard breath as if fire would come out of his nostrils, closed the door and started the bus down the road. Nan walked slowly to the back of the bus feeling that every passenger was laughing and pointing at her for being such a stupid fool. She settled down on the big bench seat at the back of the bus and prayed she would know where to get off and how to let the driver know. She now thought that maybe she should have paid closer attention to what Mother did when they took the bus. Lucky for Nan the bus stopped at the corner she recognized from the day before. She jumped off the last step and the bus quickly drove away leaving her in a puff of choking exhaust.
She went through the same drill as the day before. Undress, shower, put on wet suit, the Warden blowing the whistle as they marched to the pool. Today there were fewer students than yesterday. Timid girl walked next to her looking more scared and shivering so hard her teeth were chattering. Of course Matched Set where standing with Sexy Movie Star, all of them talking and laughing like best friends.
Today’s lesson was floating. Naturally Nan and Timid Girl, because they weren’t learning as quickly, were ignored and Matched Set received all the attention from Sexy Movie Star. Wasn’t this suppose to be lessons to learn how to swim, Nan thought. So why were the two who were doing so well getting all the attention from the instructor? Life isn’t what you would expect it should be Nan was learning.
Nan tried to float but was too scared to let go of the side of the pool. Sexy Movie Star looked her direction, “You have to let go of the pool. Lay back and float. Why are you so scared? Just do it,” she yelled at Nan then turned back with the Matched Set, they were floating like they were born in water.
At least Nan tried to float even though she was making no progress at all. Poor Timid Girl was so frightened of the water she just stood holding the edge shaking, tears filling her huge dark eyes. Nan scanned the length of the pool and saw the same scene. Those who were not scared and could master the lessons were receiving all the attention. Others like her just stood in the water shriveling up like prunes. What can you expect to for free lessons.
The Warden blew the loud shrill whistle, lesson over, take shower, get dressed, and leave.
Nan walked down the street to the bus stop, then suddenly she thought, did she have enough money for the bus fare home? She dug into her pocket and pulled out the coins that were left and counted them.
Nan’s face went pale, she felt a stab in her chest as she counted the coins again and then again. “Oh no!” Nan gasped out loud. There were twenty pennies and five nickels - only forty-five cents and she need seventy-five cents for the bus fare.
What was she going to do? It was too far to walk home. How would she get on the bus?
Nan felt light-headed then cold then hot, she wanted life to end right there.
She stood at the corner with the others waiting for the bus. She scrutinized each person. Everyone at the bus stop looked very confident and she was sure each of them had the correct bus fare. None had such terrible problems in life as she.
Nan noticed the bus stop crowd was getting larger. Maybe, she thought, she could just get lost in the crowd and the driver wouldn’t notice how much money she put in the fare box. Oh, but what if it was the Ogre he would be sure to notice each cent that went into the box, she would be dead.
The huge bus roared up the road and stopped with a screech of the brakes. The crowd marched forward up the steps. Clink, clink, clink. The coins played their ecstatic song as they were deposited into the box. Nan approached the box, took a deep breath and as quick as possible let her twenty pennies and five nickels leave her fingers. She fearfully looked up bracing herself for the Ogre’s mighty blow. But it wasn’t the Ogre at all but a friendly gray haired grandpa type with smiling blue eyes and a friendly smile. He looked back, giving her a welcoming nod.
She quickly moved to the back of the bus and tried hiding behind the tall seats hoping the Grandpa wouldn’t notice she was stealing the ride from the bus company. All the way home she was worried he would call on his radio and the police would be waiting for her as she descended the bus.
Finally her stop came, she got up to leave. The Grandpa looked in the rear view mirror, raised his hand and waved to her saying, “Have a good day sweetie.”
She stepped off the bus - no police. She took a sigh of relief and happily ran home.
That night Nan lay in bed not being able to understand what was going wrong with the lessons. She was trying to learn to swim so she wouldn’t almost drown like Mother. She was not ditching her lessons like Dad did, even though she was probably as scared of the water as he. Why was she being ignored and not being taught how to swim? These questions haunted her until she finally gave into tiredness and fell asleep.
The morning started pretty much the same with Mother waking her, a light breakfast, getting bus fare money. Only today Nan knew exactly how much money to take.
The Ogre was driving the bus again this morning. Nan walked with confidence up the steps, dropped three quarters in the box and walked like a pro to the back of the bus. She conquered the bus.
Again the swim routine, undress, shower, put on wet suit, the Warden blowing whistle, marching to the pool. Only today the Warden’s whistle didn’t seem as shrill. Also today Timid Girl was not there. She was alone in her group with Matched Set. Review of floating was the beginning of the lesson. Nan could still not master it but was starting to understand the mechanics of the whole thing. Next, incorporating the stroke with floating, actual swimming.
With a flirtatious look Sexy Movie Star kept glancing over at the boy instructor next to her. He was very tall with short black hair and blue eyes as piercing as hers. He had two small hairs just starting to sprout from his broad chest that he seemed very proud of. He also wore the lifesaver badge on his black swim trunks.
“You look like you have your hands full. Do you need a some help?” He asked Sexy Movie Star in a debonair style as he left his students and tried to strut over to her, as well as he could in the water.
“I could use some help. This is a lot to handle,” she answered back while overly fluttering her eyelashes.
Nan stopped her pretend floating and watched the love scene before her. She looked over at Mr. Debonair’s students who stood watching the scene too. They looked to be at about the same skill level as Nan, the very bottom.
The glamorous four laughed having a wonderful time in the water. The Matched Set were getting private lessons as the three lost souls stood shivering and forgotten in the water.
The last two days of lessons were pretty much the same only with Mr. Debonair’s two Lost Souls gone. It seemed she was getting a little more attention today, or maybe she actually was embracing the water and letting go of her fear.
Several students were taken over to the deep end of the pool where the diving boards were located. These students swam back and forth the width of the pool from one instructor to the other.
At the end of the lesson the Warden blew her whistle as usual, but today told everyone to sit down at the edge of the pool for an announcement.
“Today was the last of your swim lessons. I hope everyone has learned the basics of swimming. Tomorrow night at 7 p.m. a demonstration will be held for your parents and any other family members you want to bring so you can show off the skills you have learned,” she said in her booming voice. “We will see everyone here tomorrow night. I hope you had a wonderful time learning to swim.” Ending her speech she blew her whistle one last shrill time as everyone marched off to the locker rooms.
When Nan got home she hesitantly handed mother the notice regarding the swimming demonstration.
“How wonderful.” Mother seemed to be beaming with pride as she tacked the notice up on the kitchen corkboard.
The night Nan was dreading was upon her - the swimming demonstration.
Mother made a hearty supper of pasta and meatballs with red sauce, but told Nan she shouldn’t eat much before swimming. How could she eat anyway, her stomach was flip-flopping like a fish out of water.
Nan was now teetering between being scared and excited. She had no idea what the swimming demonstration would entail, that is the part that scared her. Being so shy it was very difficult for her to do things without knowing everything that would happen. On the other hand, Mother and Dad would be there to watch, that excited her. Dad would be proud that she had gone to her lessons to learn to swim. Mother would see that the water wouldn’t swallow her up.
Splash!!! -- The chlorine scented water sprayed on Nan hitting her in the face again, she was scared of this demonstration now that she was here. The instructors were in the pool forming a line down the length. First a girl would jump in the pool and swim the length with encouraging words delivered from the instructors. Then a boy would jump in and do the same. After each student ascended from the pool Nan heard the crowd applauded loudly. The Matched Set boy’s family hooted and whistled for him as he took a little bow before returning to the locker room.
Nan was next and she still was not sure what to do. She stood at the edge of the pool looking down at the sparkling blue water. She had never been to this end of the pool.
“Jump in. What are you waiting for?” the instructors yelled. “Jump in and swim to the other end.”
Nan obeyed the orders and jumped in feet first, her heart pounding with fright. She sliced through the clear glass surface as the water covered her whole body. She heard the muffled whale cries and the anchor sound hitting the bottom of the pool again. But then she suddenly realized the horrifying truth. She was not touching the pool floor - she continued to descend down. She continued down, down into the briny depths - to her death!
Nan saw her life pass before her. She recalled Mother’s near drowning story. Mother was right to never go in the water again. She opened her eyes under the water and could see the legs of the instructors moving as they treaded water to keep in place.
Finally, by some miracle, she rose to the surface of the water. She was coughing, spitting water and splashing franticly. She could hear the voices of the instructors, but she was in such a panic she could not make out what the words were. She heard someone telling her to grab something, but she wasn’t sure what. Then through blurry, chorine stung eyes she made out the figure of the Warden at the side of the pool holding a long pole.
“Grab the pole - grab the pole.” The Warden yelled as she pushed a long slender silver pole toward Nan.
Nan tried to grab the pole but each time she would reach for it she would panic. Each time she panicked she would sink into the vicious waters again. The Warden kept trying to fish her out with the pole.
Finally she grabbed the pole and the Warden pulled her along the remaining length of the pool. Water sprayed in her face as she sped along the glassy top of the pool. She reached the end of the pool after what seemed like a hundred years. Awkwardly she pulled herself out feeling like weights were trying to take her back to the deep wet bottom.
Nan heard no cheering, no applauds from the crowd. She ran with tears swelling in her eyes out of the room. This time she stood under the pelting shower spray, tears mixing with the water, while she wished to die.
Nan could not think of a more humiliating moment in her life. She had never been to the deep end of the pool, how was she to know there was no bottom to stand on. How was she to swim when no one gave her the proper instruction? She swore she would never go in the water again the rest of her life.
Nan was so upset she didn’t say a word the whole ride home. She wasn’t even sure if Mother and Dad spoke. Once they got home she ran to her room and jumped on the bed crying. A few moments later Dad came in to see her.
“I was awful. I was the worse one.” Nan sobbed with her head buried in the pillow. “I was the only one they didn’t clap for.”
“Now Nan. You were not the worse.” Dad said in his kind soothing voice. “Everyone was a student there, not everyone was at the same level. Everyone received applause, even you because everyone tried his or her best. Was that the first time you were in the deep end of the pool?”
Nan explained everything to Dad. About how she thought the instructors gave all the attention to the students who weren’t scared of the water. How all the other students who were scared were ignored because they didn’t catch on as quickly.
Dad patted her back as she continued to cry.
“It’s alright. It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes things seem bad, we all have those moments. These are the things that help us be who we are. Toughens us up.”
Nan was now sitting up with Dad holding her. To her it was the end of the world. She stopped crying as she rested her head on his shoulders.
“Hold your head high Nan and go back next summer. Show them you will learn to swim. Don’t let them ignore you, make waves,” he smiled. “You will learn much more than swimming. Face the things that scare you. You don’t want to be like your parents and scared of water your whole life. You have more courage than me, I couldn’t have jumped in that pool,” he laughed.
Nan looked up at Dad’s smiling face. No matter how terrible things could be he always made her feel good. Nan gave Dad a big hug and kissed his cheek.
“I’ll remember that, but please don’t make me go to the demonstration next time,” she pleaded.
“You go to the lessons, and you do not have to go to the demonstration if you don’t want,” Dad said and returned a kiss to Nan. “We are very proud of you for trying.”
“Thanks, Dad.” She looked towards the door and saw Mother smiling at her too. “I will try again not just to conquer the deep but to make myself proud of me.”
© Copyright 2014 Eileen A Partak